A Letter to the Prime Minister

Commentary, Agriculture, Robert Sopuck

To the Right Honourable Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada:

Dear Mr. Martin,

Just thought I’d send along some advice from the Canadian Prairies in this difficult time for you. Remember that the Chinese symbol for crisis is composed of the symbols for “chaos” and “opportunity.” Every crisis has within it the seeds of opportunity.

You are probably mulling over some fairly unpalatable options, and I suspect you are surrounded by the usual crowd of “spin doctors” who seem to be permanent fixtures in today’s political world. They are urging this communications strategy, that political fix, this message and on and on, without any appreciation of the real issues facing the country. But this is what happens when political and media elites allow themselves to be isolated in their ivory towers.

In the spirit of presenting strategic options, I’ll give you another. Why don’t you adopt a “damn the torpedoes” strategy and simply do the right thing? Why not fix what is broken? In our system you can, with the stroke of a pen, reverse a number of very bad policies and programs.

You have worked very hard to become leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister and undoubtedly you want to do the right thing for Canada. In spite of your vaunted agenda for cities, you own a farm and have a deep and abiding concern for the views of rural people. At least that is what you said on CBC’s Cross Country Checkup when a caller asked you about the failed gun registry.

In the spirit of “doing the right thing” – while you still can – here is a shopping list of suggestions that should go a long way to helping rural Canada, and none of them involves mindless buckets of subsidies for the regions:

1. Abandon the gun registry with its cost overruns and stultifying bureaucracy which, more importantly, does nothing to stop crime. When you kill the registry, announce that the funds saved will be used to hire more officers on the street. Slam dunk.

2. Eliminate the new fisheries enforcement program being run by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Not only is it outrageously expensive ($60 million over 3 years), it is slowly strangling rural community development. Why not turn those DFO staff loose on the landscape to fix real problems out there, as opposed to being enforcers of ridiculous rules for drainage ditches? There’s a novel idea, actually solving problems.

3. In the same vein, please return the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration to its former role as an agency that helps rural people. The higher-ups in your Agriculture Department are doing their best to kill PFRA and must be stopped.

4. Mandate a “dual marketing” experiment for the Canadian Wheat Board. Let the agency’s staff test their proven skills in a consensual format.

5. Send a strong signal to the United States that Canada will now cooperate fully with them in matters of global security and defence. Increase the defence budget.

6. Get invited to George Bush’s ranch in Texas and work to get cattle moving again across the border. Make improved relations with the U.S. your highest priority.

7. Remove the federal government entirely from areas of provincial jurisdiction (see DFO point above).

8. Make sure that Bill C-10, the proposed animal cruelty act that died on the order paper, stays dead.

9. Please, please, clean house at the highest levels of the civil service, which has lost respect for the hard work that underwrites its revenues.

10. Finally, listen to your Rural Caucus.

I hope you find these ideas useful.

Yours truly,

Robert D. Sopuck

Director, Rural Renaissance Project, Frontier Centre for Public Policy